This is an archive of the Treatment Action Campaign's public documents from
December 1998 until October 2008. I created this website because the TAC's
website appears unmaintained and people were concerned that it
was becoming increasingly hard to find important documents.
The menu items have been slightly edited and a new stylesheet applied to the site. But none of the documents have been edited, not even for minor errors. The text appears on this site as obtained from the Internet Archive.
The period covered by the archive encompassed the campaign for HIV medicines, the civil disobedience campaigns, the Competition Commission complaints, the 2008 xenophobic violence and the PMTCT, Khayelitsha health workers and Matthias Rath court cases.
Stop pseudo-science and AIDS denialism
Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa orders Matthias Rath to withdraw his adverts
14 March 2005
For more than a year, the wealthy vitamin salesman Matthias Rath has run a high-profile media campaign attacking scientific medicine and the Medicines Control Council by placing adverts in national newspapers. He does this in order to promote his own over-priced vitamins which he prescribes in dangerously high quantities. The Medicines Control Council and the Department of Health failed to take action against him. This has emboldened him to take his campaign further, by attacking the science of HIV, antiretroviral medicines and making false defamatory allegations against the TAC and the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA). In recent weeks, Rath's agents have distributed pamphlets and posters in Cape Town city centre, Nyanga and Khayelitsha which contain lies about vitamins and antiretrovirals and make false allegations against TAC.
According to government over 5.6 million South Africans live with HIV and about 500 000 need antiretroviral treatment. The Department of Health has just announced that it will spend more than R3 billion on purchasing antiretroviral medicines. It is government policy to make antiretrovirals available and to encourage people who have AIDS to enroll in the programme. Rath's campaign undermines this policy, causes public confusion and endangers lives. We therefore ask President Mbeki, Minister of Health Tshabalala-Msimang and the ANC why they have not condemned Rath? Any reason why SANCO-Khayelitsha, which considers itself a government ally, has joined Rath's campaign?
Rath's adverts have been run in some of South Africa's most widely read and respected newspapers, including Business Day, City Press, the Mail & Guardian and The Sowetan. He also published in Cape Town community based newspapers, City Vision and Vukani. Of these newspapers, only the Mail & Guardian took a stand and publicly refused to continue publishing Rath without awaiting the outcome of a complaint against Rath at ASASA. It has been brought to our attention that the Sunday Times refused to publish his adverts as well and we commend them for this. We know that City Vision and Business Day do not support Rath's positions. We hope that City Press also does not support him. Rath is not the only charlatan who gets undeserved positive media coverage. A few weeks ago, Kaapse Son ran a profile of a person claiming to be able to cure AIDS using ozone; this type of nonsense is not unusual.
Litigation against The Sowetan
The Sowetan regularly publishes Rath's adverts without indicating that they are adverts or criticising them in editorial comment. Furthermore it published a highly defamatory Rath advert on Friday 11 March despite a ruling by ASASA on 10 March that Rath's adverts must be withdrawn, in response to a complaint laid by the TAC and George Stacey. The content of the advert, which also contains hate-speech against ASASA and TAC, could have left the Sowetan in no doubt that it was in breach of the ASASA code. The Sowetan has on a number of occasions runs op-ed pieces, profiles and letters by AIDS denialists - often making false defamatory accusations against TAC and frequently without reply. Therefore, we have consulted lawyers and intend to sue the The Sowetan for defaming TAC. ASASA has asked us to indicate what sanctions against Rath we believe are appropriate. We are also considering other litigation to put an end to Rath's distribution of quack remedies as well as libelous pamphlets and posters in the Western Cape.
We appeal to South Africa's newspapers: The Sowetan has ignored the ASASA ruling and published adverts that endanger public health and contain hate-speech. Newspapers that do this risk unravelling the self-regulatory framework that maintains ethical behaviour in the industry. Stop giving Rath and other charlatans media-space.
TAC calls on
organisations around the world with knowledge of Rath's activities to please contact us (email: email@example.com and put "RATH INFORMATION" in the subject line);
WHO, UNAIDS and UNICEF to issue a statement condemning Rath, who has misused their recommendations in his adverts;
US-based activists to urge newspapers, such as the New York Times, to stop publishing Rath's adverts;
the South African government to issue an unequivocal condemnation of Rath and
the Medicines Control Council to take action against Rath immediately.
TAC thanks George Stacey for laying a complaint with ASASA against Matthias Rath.
Please find the following below:
Also please note the following article on the TAC website:
Please note that the ruling below is a typed copy, by TAC, of the ASASA ruling. We have done our best to ensure it is correctly typed but cannot guarantee this. We hope ASASA will place the ruling on their website.
Ruling of the ASA Directorate
In the matter between
TREATMENT ACTION CAMPAIGN (TAC) FIRST COMPLAINANT
GEORGE STACEY SECOND COMPLAINANT
DR RATH HEALTH FOUNDATION AFRICA RESPONDENT
9 March 2005
DR RATH HEALTH FOUNDATION/TAC & ANOTHER/1861
Consumer complaints were lodged against a Dr. Rath Health Foundation Africa print advertisement in the Mail & Guardian on 26 November 2004.
The advertisement is headed "Why should South Africans continue to be poisoned with AZT?
THERE’S A NATURAL ANSWER TO AIDS’ and contains a number of claims regarding this topic.
In essence, the complainants submit that the advertisement breaches the Code in the following respects:
It exaggerates the efficacy of multivitamins in "treating" AIDS.
It deliberately misleads consumers about zidovudine (AZT).
It deliberately misleads consumers about nevirapine (NVP).
It deliberately misleads the public about the MCC.
The first complainant requested sanctions.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The first complainant identified the following clauses of the Code as relevant
Section II, Clause 2 – Honesty
Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiatian
Section II, Clause 4.2.1 - Misleading claims
Section II, Clause 4.2.2 – Puffery
Section II, Clause 4.2.3 – Hyperbole
Section II, Clause 4.2.4 – Expert opinion
Section II, Clause 4..2.5 – Statistics and scientific information
Section II, Clause 4.2.6 – Headlines
Section II, Clause 6 – Disparagement
Section II , Clause 7 – Comparative advertising
Section II, Clause 13 – Safety
Appendix H – Advertising for over-the-counter medicines
In addition, in light of the second complainant’s submissions, the following further clauses of the
Code were taken into account:
Section 1, Clause 12 – Responsibility to the consumer
Appendix A – Medicinal and related products and advertisements containing health claims
Appendix F – Reference to diseases in advertising
The respondent addressed the ASA Directorate at length on the merits of the matter, and denied that
The advertisement is in breach of the Code.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
At a meeting held on 9 February 2005 the Directorate considered the relevant documentation
Submitted by the respective parties.
The treatment of HIV/AIDS is a highly controversial subject by its nature, and especially in light of the types of claims made in the advertisement.
Clauses 2.4 of Section 1 states:
"To the extent that any advertisement:
Expresses an opinion of a matter of which is the subject of controversy; and
That controversy involves issues within the area, broadly defined of public policy and practice, then that opinion shall not be subject to the provisions of the Code relating to misleading claims except that -
All advertisements which contain such controversial statements should:
be ready recognizable as advertisements;
cause no confusion as to the identity or status of advertiser;
Whenever such information is not readily available state the advertiser’s address and telephone number."
This clause creates certain requirements for a claim to amount to "controversial statement". Once it has been established that the statement is controversial, the Directorate may not consider whether or not the claim is misleading. In other words, the claim can no longer be evaluated in terms of clause 4.2.1 of Section II but can be considered in terms of the remaining clauses of the Code.
For this reason the Directorate will first consider whether or not each claim is acceptable in terms of the named clauses of the Code other than Clause 4.2.1 of Section II. Only if the claim is acceptable in terms of the other clauses, will it become necessary for the Directorate to determine whether or not the claim in question falls within the ambit of Clause 2.4 of Section I, in order to determine whether or not Clause 4.2.1 of Section II can be considered.
The respondent has lodged a bulky set of research in substantiation of its claims. The respondent’s attention is drawn to Clause 4.1.4 of Section II which requires that "Documentary evidence … shall emanate from or be evaluated by a person/entity which is independent, credible and an expert in the particular field to which the claims relate and be acceptable to the ASA". The substantiation submitted is in the form of various research articles, extracts from websites and articles by the respondent’s representatives. These have not been evaluated by an independent expert or entity as required by Clause 4.1 of Section II.
However, in so far as the advertisement refers to particular outcomes of particular studies, the ASA will have regard to the accuracy of same.
The ASA wishes to clarify its role in this matter before proceeding on the merits:
1. The ASA does not have the